Happy First Day of Autumn!
Around this time last year I took a hiatus from work at Attar to help out full time in the kitchen at Aesop’s Tables. It was a quite an adventure in many good but unexpected ways! The owner, at that point, was having some health issues and needed to take leave. I learned quickly and under pressure how to cook large batches of soup and create daily specials and after just two months I was on my own! My experience from working at Attar was put to good use!
During that crash course in cafe cooking I discovered that Lowell and I were expecting our first baby! Many of the first few months cooking were spent doing so with terrible morning sickness. What an challenge to be offended by the smell and taste of virtually everything while having the pressure of cooking lots of good food on my shoulders. Somehow, though , I seemed to manage pulling it off. I have a lot of pride in the all the positive feedback I got on my cooking during that time.
July fourth I gave birth to our son, Everly! What an amazing little man. The antiquated rhyme may state that snips, snails and puppy dog tails are reserved for little boys. That may be true, but I think I’ve got one full of sugar and spice too!
Last December we hosted a Christmas “Make and Take” Party where we invited our guests to create their own room spays, body mists and perfumes with our essential oils and fragrances. It was a super lovely time, enhanced by the gracious culinary gifts of Audrey who prepared a tasty spread for all to enjoy. She featured a selection of our spices and shared the recipes with us and our guests. What a lady!
Recently I was organizing a stack of recipes we have accumulated in the shop. I came across the ones Audrey shared with us and remembered them quite fondly. In honor of my return to work at Attar and celebrating my sweet and spicy son in the season of cinnamon I share with you this simple, tasty, toasty nut recipe.
Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pecans
4 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons of Saigon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of salt
Heat the oven to 350F. Place pecan halves in a shallow baking dish ( such as a 13 x 9 inch glass). Bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring once. Mix butter, sugar and the Saigon Cinnamon together. Pour the mixture over the toasted nuts and stir to coat. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until they are fragrant. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt. Cook in a single layer on waxed paper or a buttered baking tray to cool. Pecans will crisp as they cool completely.
Mother Nature has outdone herself this autumn. Have you seen the trees around the region? They’re nearly skimming the ground with all those apples. I’ve seen some of the branches actually bending under the weight of their plentitude. Well if that’s not an invitation to get pickin’ and bakin’ and eatin’ then I don’t know what is!
Every season boasts a star spice. One that can blend with the bounty and highlight its flavors or offer a slight touch of the exotic and a taste of variety to a local dish. It’s probably no surprise that for this season, cinnamon is our go-to spice. It will be sprinkled with wild abandon all over everything from apples, to squash to pies and tossed into lattes. Cinnamon appears to be a simple spice at first glance. Sweet and warming, it comes from the inner bark of several trees from the genus cinnamomum. However it is highly probable that what you have in your cupboard named cinnamon isn’t “true” cinnamon. Now don’t fret, it’s not going to hurt you either. There are several varieties of cinnamon commercially produced but only one true cinnamon, which originates from Sri Lanka, cinnamomum zeylanicum, commonly known as Ceylon Cinnamon. What is typically bottled and sold as cinnamon in this country is from the genus cinnamomum cassia, known worldwide, everywhere but the US that is, as Cassia. The differences in flavor between Cassia, Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon (yet another relative) are significant. That being said they all offer the pleasing, warming, sweet and spicy reminder of fall and are powerful enough to evoke feelings of contentment, warmth, joy and hunger.
Last week Autumn, Grandma and I had fun making this simple yet gorgeous dessert that highlights our apple harvest and yes, our cinnamon (in this case it was our Saigon Cinnamon for it offers the unique spiciness of a fireball and yet is equally sweet.) ANY cinnamon, apple pie spice or even pumpkin pie spice will be just perfect for this easy and elegant treat. Enjoy the abundant harvest.
Apple Rose Pastries
(adapted from a recipe, author unknown)
3 apples (cut in half, cored, then sliced thin like half moons)
6 tbsp of a preserve or jam (we used apricot)
2 sheets of puff pastry or homemade dough
½ cup of water
*Take your sliced apples and put in water with a squeeze of lemon. Microwave for 45 seconds or until soft.
*Roll out your puff pastry or dough very thin (less than ⅛” thickness) into a rectangle and cut into six even rectangles with the dimensions of roughly 3” by 10-12”.
*Brush rectangles lightly with preserves and arrange apples along top edge of length of dough overlapping just slightly and with the peel edge of apples facing out and hanging above the top of dough about ¼”.
*Sprinkle with cinnamon and then fold up bottom of dough over apples (apple tops should be hanging over the top about ¼” or so).
*Roll your pastry (from short end) to the other and then place in a muffin tin. Continue with the rest of the pastry and apples.
*Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes. When cool sprinkle confectioners sugar on top if desired.